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Driven to uncover the truth about the mysterious death of his ladylove, the Duke of Hawkscliffe will go to any lengths to unmask a murderer. Even if it means jeopardizing his reputation by engaging in a scandalous affair with London’s most provocative courtesan—the desirable but aloof Belinda Hamilton.
Bel has used her intelligence and wit to charm the city’s titled gentlemen, while struggling to put the pieces of her life back together. She needs a protector, so she accepts Hawk’s invitation to become his mistress in name only. He asks nothing of her body, but seeks her help in snaring the same man who shattered her virtue. Together they tempt the unforgiving wrath of society—until their risky charade turns into a dangerous attraction, and Bel must make a devastating decision that could ruin her last chance at love. . .
Why do you need to read this book? You need to read about the story of Belinda (Bel) and Hawkescliffe (Hawk). Although I loved both characters, I LOVED the character of Bel. She’s the reason you need to read this book!
The Duke can be purchased from Amazon
Excerpt (from the author’s website)
The thirty-five-year-old Robert Knight, ninth duke of Hawkscliffe, appeared unaware of his approach, stony and immobile as the monument. He stood in bleak granite stillness, the rain plastering his wavy black hair to his forehead, running in chilly rivulets down the stark planes of his cheeks, and dripping off his rugged profile as he stared down at the yellow daffodils that had been planted on her grave.
Coldfell winced at the ungentlemanly intrusion he was about to make on the other man’s grief. Hawkscliffe was, after all, the only one of the younger generation he respected. Some of the old-school pigtail Tories found the young magnate’s views alarmingly Whiggish, but none could deny that Hawkscliffe was twice the man his weak-willed father had been.
Why, Coldfell reflected as he hobbled up the path, he had seen Robert become a duke at the age of seventeen, managing three vast estates and raising four wild younger brothers and a little sister practically single-handedly. More recently, he had heard him deliver speeches in the Lords with a cool force and eloquence that had brought the whole house to its feet. Hawkscliffe’s integrity was unquestioned; his honor rang true as a bell of finest sterling.
Many of the younger set, like Coldfell’s own idiot nephew and heir, Sir Dolph Breckinridge, considered the so-called paragon duke a rigid high stickler, but to wiser heads, Hawkscliffe was, in a word, impeccable.
It was pitiful to see what Lucy’s death had done to him. Ah, well. Men would see in a woman what they wanted to see.
Coldfell cleared his throat. Startled, Hawkscliffe jerked at the noise and spun around. Tumultuous emotion blazed in his dark eyes. Seeing Coldfell, his dazed expression of pain took on a stab of guilt. With his honorable nature, it had no doubt tormented the duke to have wanted an old friend’s wife. Himself, he had never been that chivalrous. James nodded to him. “Hawkscliffe.”
“Beg your pardon, my lord, I was just leaving,” he mumbled, lowering his head.
“Stay, Your Grace, by all means,” Coldfell answered, waving off the awkwardness. “Keep an old man company on this dreary day.”
“As you wish, sir.” Narrowing his eyes against the rain, Hawkscliffe looked away uncomfortably, surveying the jagged horizon of tombstones.
Coldfell hobbled to the brim of the grave, cursing his aching joints. When the weather was fine, he could hunt all day without tiring. But he had not been energetic enough for Lucy, had he?
Well, she had had her fashionable London burial, just as she would have liked. Having died at his house just outside London, she had a spot in the most exclusive cemetery in the city, complete with a Flaxman funerary monument, the height of good taste, sparing no expense. And well he should have to pay for this most expensive mistake—an old man’s folly, he thought bitterly. Beauty indeed was his weakness. With nothing to recommend her but a magnificent mane of flame-colored hair and the most luscious thighs in Christendom, the twenty-six-year-old Lucy O’Malley had been an artist’s model in Sheffield before she had bewitched him into making her his second countess. He had sworn her to keep quiet about her background, devising a false one for her. At least she had given that pledge sincerely, eager as she had been to join the ton.
Coldfell was merely glad he had not been forced to bury Lucy next to Margaret, his first wife, who was reverently enshrined at Seven Oaks, the ancestral pile in Leicestershire. Ah, wise Margaret, his heart’s mate, whose only fault had been her failure to give him a son.
“I am—very sorry for your loss, my lord,” Hawkscliffe said stiffly, avoiding his gaze.
Coldfell slid a furtive glance at the duke, then sighed, nodding. “It’s hard to believe she’s really gone. So young. So full of life.”
“What will you do now?”
“I leave for Leicestershire tomorrow. A few weeks in the country will help, I warrant.” A visit to Seven Oaks would also take him out of the way of suspicion when this man carried out the deed for him.
“I’m sure you will find it soothing,” Hawkscliffe said—polite, automatic.
They were both silent for a long moment, Hawkscliffe brooding, Coldfell reflecting on the uneasiness of living anymore in his elegant villa in South Kensington with its four pretty acres of sculpted gardens—the site of Lucy’s death.
“Lay her in the earth. And from her fair and unpolluted flesh may violets spring,” Hawkscliffe quoted barely audibly.
Coldfell looked at him in pity. “Laertes’ speech on Ophelia’s grave.”
The duke said nothing, merely stared at the carven letters on the monument: Lucy’s name, her date of birth and death.
“I never touched her,” he choked out abruptly, turning to Coldfell in impetuous anguish. “You have my word as a gentleman. She never betrayed you.”